I always cry at least once during fashion month. Mostly because of exhaustion and crabbiness or because something disastrous happened (lost bank card, stolen phone, twisted ankle etc etc). Sometimes though you do get caught up in the moment of a collection and things genuinely move you. Simone Rocha did that. I'll probably blame the tears on jumped up hormones and fatigue because we're really no longer in the age of fashion where shows are so moving that audiences stand up, weep or faint from the beauty they've just been delivered. Those moments are rare these days. You give faint smiles, politely clap and rush off to the next one.
The funny thing was when tears were being shed, I wasn't even strictly speaking watching the show. I was backstage seeing a flurry of activity. But even from back there with the muffled rumblings of U.S. Girls' The Island Song and Joy Division's Atmosphere (maybe that was the tear jerker) and casting directors and production people yelling at girls to line-up properly, I was moved. Rocha has always designed from a genuinely personal place, devoid of overarching concept, but this season it was especially so. Read this poetic, brief and tension-ridden press release…
‚ÄòTis Killing Warm.
Sheep, gorse, moss and rock.
The collection is the West of Ireland, Connemara.
It‚Äôs hard, wet, dark, ugly, masculine, tailored, embellished and pearled.
Think of the sea, think of you and me.
Wet lace, patent cotton, heavy silk and thick tulle, hand crochet cotton and embroidered plastic.
It is a balance and a constraint, soft and rough and tough, men and women.
Mourning, communion, isolation, union.
What Rocha is making reference to is abundantly clear when you saw all of those prim pearls laced with connotation, those ruffled slits revealing a flash of leg in the full skirts that is overt in its subtext, the nods to Catholic veils, "proper" handbags and gloves worn for Sunday Mass and finally the swathes of nuptial-implied tulle covering the models. She was passing comment on a female's formative rites of passage, from innocent childhood, to a sexual awakening, to finding a soulmate and then joining with them in union. All the while Rocha created incredibly evocative and desirable clothes. Girls who hate all things sugar n' spice and all things nice, left the show swooning. They got the memo that Rocha gave them license to mash up femininity and masculinity in harmonious ways. In her hands, female-associated materials like lace, crochet, pearls and sheer tulle are always going to go through a toughening up process – the lace becomes "wet", plastic becomes embroidered, pearls are paired with perspex-heeled jelly shoes or with spongey mesh and tulle is flecked with glint. They're unnatural pairings that are made to feel completely natural.
Maybe it was a cry of relief that Rocha had delivered, where much of London Fashion Week has been a little lacking. Without naming names, a lot of what I saw was overly polite, polished and buyer-friendly and whilst those are not bad things, I missed the real shaken-to-core moments – the really special tingles I've felt many times before at London Fashion Week when you see someone has really given it their all. Rocha's collection will get the buyers foaming at the mouths of course but maybe a tear or two will fall. Think of the sea, think of you and me.